Why are real foods more than a trend? You’d be hard-pressed to find a nutritionist or dietitian who argues that a refined, processed diet is superior to a whole foods diet, one that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. But even for the kale smoothie enthusiasts among us, it’s still nearly impossible to get all the nutrients we need through food alone. Unfortunately, only 2% of Americans are eating the definition of a healthful diet.1 So what does “real food” mean for the future of our diets?
When it comes to health, today we hear a lot about the move to fresher food and cleaner labels. But the reality is, the move to real food is just a resurgence in something that was important to us already, many years ago.
When vitamins were first discovered, they were isolated from food so we could better identify and study them. As the western world developed, the need to provide better access to nutritious foods, and their inherent vitamins and minerals, developed with it.
Major food companies, like Quaker Foods and Tropicana, started out with simple missions to take fresh ingredients, like oats and oranges, to the masses, finding ways to package them, ship them and make their good nutrition more readily available. Advances in food technology catapulted companies like these, and many others, to more and more novel food products, eventually landing us where we are today with our modern food system. Today, many of these companies are working to go back to their roots in real, nutritious foods once again.
There is a lot of research on what diet is best for health and which foods to eat for optimal health. A few years ago, Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller were asked by Annual Reviews, a scientific publisher, to review several diets and elements of diets, including low-fat, low glycemic, low carb, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, and vegan. Katz and Meller’s findings concluded that while there isn’t one best diet, there are patterns in eating habits, clear common elements, that are proven to be beneficial for health. “The weight of evidence strongly supports a theme of healthful eating while allowing for variations on that theme. A diet of minimally-processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion.”2 The important phrase here is “minimally-processed foods close to nature” – this is what some refer to as real food, or whole foods. Whole foods are foods from plants, and they are unprocessed or unrefined and free from additives or other artificial substances. In some cases, a whole food can be as minimally processed or refined as possible, but it is still free from additives or artificial substances.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes are whole foods. When they are not processed, or minimally processed, they retain much of their complete profile of beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients, plus fiber. Sometimes when a food is processed, it can be stripped of its fiber, phytochemicals and nutrients. Here are a few reasons why whole foods are important:
People have been told for decades to get their nutrients from food and to eat many servings daily of fruits and vegetables. However, the reality is that this isn’t entirely possible given typical diets, lifestyles and nutrient-depleted soil. Supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals can help bridge nutrient gaps.
And if you’re determined to get as much of your daily nutritional intake from real food as possible, you likely want a vitamin and mineral supplement that delivers something that looks as close to what you put on your plate as possible, too.
Until recently, it wasn’t as easy as just going out and buying a real food multivitamin. However, as more research is conducted on nutrient-dense foods, and harvesting and concentration technologies have vastly improved, it is now possible to do just that: buy a multivitamin that isn’t synthetic, and is sourced right from real foods. Let’s break down the key things to look for when buying a real food supplement.
Real food matters, and it’s important to eat a nutrient-rich diet filled with whole foods. Everyone’s diets have nutrient gaps from time to time, sometimes due to food availability, diet choices, under consumption, and even modern life getting in the way of our best intentions – like Taco Tuesday followed by Wings Wednesday! In all of these cases, real food vitamin and mineral supplements can help fill those nutrient gaps.
To learn more about what real food supplements may be right for you, check out Swanson Health’s Real Food Formulas.
About Shane Durkee
Chief Innovation Officer, Swanson Health
Shane has over 20 years of consumer products research and development experience in leading teams in innovation, product development and medical science. He is passionate about improving people’s lives through the latest technologies and scientific research in wellness and health. As a city dweller, he likes to walk everywhere rather than drive and fits in a split regimen between weight training and cardiovascular exercise to keep boredom at bay.
1 The NPD Group/National Eating Trends® (NET®); 5 Years Ending Feb 2011(Accessed 1/2/2018)
2 D.L. Katz and S. Meller Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health? Annual Review of Public Health 2014 35:1, 83-103 http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182351 (Accessed 12/19/2017)
3 Elaine Magee, MPH, RD The Whole Foods Diet WebMD.comhttps://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-whole-foods-diet#2 (Accessed 12/20/2017)
4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020.https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/ (Accessed 12/20/2017)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.